Experience the excitement yourself

14th December 2007 at 00:00
Like city lights flickering into life at dusk, Scotland's schools are switching on to Glow sporadically at first. But before long, entire districts will be brightly lit.

Three other authorities besides East Dunbartonshire are early adopters, with a further 12 aiming to be using the system by March, says Marie Dougan, Learning and Teaching Scotland's programme director for Glow. "A realistic timescale to have almost all the authorities on board is the end of December 2008 - although we anticipate that two or three might not be able to make that."

In the meantime, the emphasis of the Glow team's national efforts is shifting, from technical development of systems to professional development of staff. "We are working with the authorities to help them get ready to implement Glow - and with other stakeholders, such as the faculties of education who will be training new teachers."

The system set up to get Glow understanding and expertise into schools is based on a national network of mentors. "We get intensive training, then we have to organise training for other teachers," says Laura Kerr, East Dunbartonshire's mentor who teaches at Lairdsland Primary. "We've been learning about its functionality - the different tools - through training days and pilots, so that we're confident when we deliver it to staff. The training manuals are excellent which teachers will have online access to."

While not claiming to know everything about Glow, the P1 teacher is comfortable with the system, she says. "We have also been trained in coaching and mentoring people, which I found valuable. There will be teachers who aren't comfortable with technology. I see us gradually building up a community of users who can support them, collaborate with them and raise their confidence. We'll chunk it down, take small steps."

For Marie Dougan, this is satisfying and creative. "Besides Glow functionality there is also centrally funded content - in science, music, news and so on - which we're building on by sharing resources from authorities. Teachers will find innovative ways of using all this beyond what any of us can anticipate".

"We want schools around the country to share the excitement that pupils and teachers at Lairdsland Primary are already experiencing."

Glow makes its move

John McCarney brings a valuable educational perspective to his role as director of Glow for RM - Learning and Teaching Scotland's delivery partner - now that Glow is moving out of development and into the schools.

The former head of service for schools in East Ayrshire believes that synergy with A Curriculum for Excellence is the most important aspect of the roll-out of the new national intranet. "Glow is a much more powerful tool than anything we've had. We're working at all levels of Scottish education to get Glow supporting A Curriculum for Excellence and its implementation in the classroom - so that we are going to have successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors."

There does, however, remain disquiet in classrooms and headteachers' offices around the country. Concerns focus on the decentralised development and the absence of one national model, which is a key feature - and selling-point - of the curriculum and of Glow.

A recent comment from an East Ayrshire primary head is not atypical of feelings on the ground. "It is all too vague. There was far too much in 5-14. But at least we knew what we were supposed to be doing in the classroom. Now we don't and it's very worrying."

Once its own pockets of resistance have dissipated, Glow should help allay many of these concerns, by making it much easier for teachers, schools and authorities to collaborate and share, says Mr McCarney. "The role of the Glow team will gradually change, from early support and development to supporting new ideas and innovative, collaborative ways of working. Identifying and disseminating examples of good practice are vital tasks, and our education team is already working on those."

From assisting authorities with "32 varieties of implementation to suit their own priorities" to talking to directors of education, to training authorities' technical staff and providing professional development to teachers, the Glow team will have its work cut out for the foreseeable future, he says.


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